Hello and welcome to the latest stint in our career series, which looks at how different women spend 24 hours in their chosen profession. This week we’re chatting to Susie* who is a 26-year-old midwife. Susie* has been in her role for two years but worked as a nurse for three years beforehand. She earns £31,450 per year and has degrees in both Adult Nursing and Midwifery.
Each month Susie* works two weeks of 12.5 hour-long day shifts and then two weeks of 10.5 hour-long night shifts.
This is Susie’s* story…
6am: “My alarm goes off whilst I’m being trampled on by my puppy. I give myself 30 mins to shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, do my make-up (just my eyes though – thank god for face masks), pack my bag and head to the car.”
6.30am: “I struggle to eat before work but on a busy delivery suite I may not get a cuppa or a break until late into the afternoon so I always try to get something down me. Usually it’s a croissant or hot cross bun as I’m scurrying to the car, and thankfully, I only work a ten minute-drive away from work.”
7am: “My days vary as across one week I can be in delivery suite, antenatal ward and the postnatal ward. Today it’s a delivery suite kinda day where I will provide 1:1 care for birthing people and their families. We start with handover and I can instantly tell what kind of night it’s been. The night staff have half-drunk coffees, tired eyes and gleaming hope that they’ll soon be in bed. I’m allocated a woman named Lucy* and her partner who have been admitted for an induction of labour due to reduced fetal movements. She has been staying on the antenatal ward until a midwife becomes free to start the induction, and that’s me!”.
8.30am: “I introduce myself and discuss any birth preferences. I encourage them to make the room we’re in their own with music, aromatherapy and fairy lights. This is their time to shine.”
“As part of the induction process, I obtain bloods to check the woman’s iron levels, infection markers and confirm her blood group. I also insert an intravenous cannula to deliver fluids and an oxytocin hormone infusion if required. Lucy* is 3cm dilated and bouncing on the ball to encourage labour, she wishes for epidural pain relief so I discuss this with the anaesthetic doctor who will come to discuss the risks and benefits of this. Lucy is on a continuous monitor to observe the baby’s heart rate and her contractions, everything is progressing normally, and the room is very calm.”
11am: “I pop out to go to the toilet and see that the delivery suite is bouncing. My colleague has just supported a woman to deliver healthy twins vaginally and another colleague has rushed to theatre to help a lady deliver her baby via emergency Caesarean section. My interest in becoming a midwife was sparked whilst I was at university. I met the most amazing midwife who had travelled the world helping to improve global maternal health by addressing the inequalities in maternity care and I dreamt of providing 1:1 personalised care.”
1pm: “My hot cross bun didn’t really do the trick and I am REALLY hungry – my rumbling tummy sounds are ruining the calm vibe. I grab a few custard creams in my pocket and go back to ensure that Lucy* and her partner are OK. Labour is progressing and she is now 6cm dilated, and has a working epidural. Her partner is sneaking a quick snooze in the corner of the room comforted by a vending machine KitKat.”
1.20pm: “We’re just settling into a conversation about what’s new on telly and I’m trying to explain why Below Deck is so brilliant when the emergency buzzer sounds. I ensure that Lucy* and her baby are both safe and run out of the room. The alarm has been sounded because there is a prolonged deceleration in another room (where the baby’s heart rate drops significantly). I see that the midwife in charge, obstetric consultant, registrar and several other midwives are present and they do not need my assistance. I return to Lucy* and her partner and apologise for leaving.”
3pm: “Break time! The time that we go for a break varies depending on how busy the unit is and how many midwives are working. Delivery suite is unpredictable so is managed seamlessly minute to minute depending on the needs of women and their babies. We have an hour break on our 12.5hr shift and because I didn’t want to spend my day off meal prepping, I’m having yet another 89p egg and cress sandwich, and a selection of kids packed lunch items (yes, we’re talking cheese strings).”
“A kind colleague cares for Lucy* whilst I’m on break and I get an update that she’s fully dilated and ready to push – I’m excited to meet her little boy! However, a lady in triage (maternity A&E) Victoria*, is in labour and progressing very quickly and I’m was asked to take a handover and to transfer to delivery suite and care for her instead.”
4.15pm: “After just 15 minutes, Victoria* welcomes a beautiful baby girl who has arrived three weeks early, much to her surprise. She blames a curry she had the previous night…”
“The moment that you support an empowered woman to deliver her baby into the world, is just the most amazing feeling, seeing the absolute joy and elation amongst the family. It is such a privilege to be part of this gorgeous moment.”
“Victoria* obtained a tear that was close to her urethra, therefore the obstetric registrar attends the room to perform the repair under local anaesthetic. I support Victoria emotionally and physically during this time, helping her to comfortably keep baby in skin to skin which was one of her wishes. I also support Victoria to initiate the first breastfeed with her baby, weighed the baby, performed a top to toe examination, and applied two labels identifying the baby.”
6.30pm: “I allow the new family some time together as I perch at the desk with other midwives, completing birth documentation (there is SO MUCH) and creating baby’s infamous red book. I hear that Lucy gave birth shortly after I had left so I congratulate the family and give both Lucy and Victoria the Michelin star tea and toast.”
“The midwife in charge informs me that the night shift is short staffed and there will not be a midwife to care for Victoria, therefore I am encouraged to safely transfer her and her baby to the postnatal ward before handover. One of the hardest things about this role is the chronic lack of staff and resources in NHS maternity services doesn’t always allow you to give women and their families your all. You’re having to care for many women at once and you often feel like you are letting women down. However, I have to remember that I am only human, and my best is always good enough.”
7.45pm: “We all head up to the postnatal ward and I settle the new family in, orientate them to the ward and explain the plan of care. The night staff have already started handover, so I must wait until they have finished before handing over my lady. Rumour has it the cars are frozen so I grab a bottle of warm water (not advised but am desperate for bed) and a few stray Snickers from the left-over Cele-brations and hold tight until handover.”
8pm: “Home! If I’m lucky. I’m bombarded with cuddles and kisses from my puppy who doesn’t seem to understand personal space and my fab boyfriend is usually cooking something for dinner.”
9.30pm: “No surprise, it’s an episode of Below Deck/Gilmore Girls on the sofa before hopping into bed to do it all again tomorrow…”